Pay Mental Health Workers What They Are Worth

3 min read


This is the hourly wage I was told the staff receive at my son’s residential facility.

I am appalled!

I have always known that the mental health field was not one that paid well. Yet, as I sat in a meeting two weeks ago, trying to understand why my son’s residential facility was having difficulty keeping and hiring new staff, I concluded that one main reason was because of this low $9.25 an hour rate.

In the meeting, it was shared that they have tried to hire people, but their attempts have been unsuccessful.  They shared how one person went through the hiring process, to later decline the job because of the low rate.  And honestly, I can’t blame that person. Working in a Community Living Arrangement (CLA) is a lot of work.

The duties of a Community Living Arrangement (CLA) worker are many.  Staff requirements include keeping the residential home clean and shopping for food and other essentials.  They prepare three or more meals a day.  They give assistance in toileting, bathing, and dressing.  Also, staff are required to administer medication, as well as many other responsibilities. So, an hourly wage of $9.25 is extremely low, as well as insulting.

This $9.25 is only two dollars more than the Pennsylvania minimum hourly wage of $7.25. For a person making $9.25/hour, working 40 hours a week, their gross pay would be $370.00 weekly. If paid bi-weekly, their gross pay would be $740.00. Then after estimated deductions of about 27% ($199.80), their net pay is $540.20.

Wow! Insulting!

As I calculate that amount, and stare at the numbers, it makes me angry, it makes me cry, and it makes me scream……

Who can live off of such an amount?
Who can pay their bills?
Who can pay their rent or mortgage?
Who can provide food for a family?
Who can pay for childcare?
Who can buy clothes?
Who can save?

I’m not sure many people can provide for their family with this low pay.

So, what am I going to do?

I am going to pray and I am going to act.

I am going to advocate, fight, and use my voice, to speak to the leaders and heads of my son’s residential facility to see if I can bring about a conversation. Yet, not just a discussion, where we talk, and take notes, then leave and those papers are later stuffed in files or thrown in the trash and our conversation is never spoken about again. No! Not at all!

I want to bring about a conversation that will not stop. A conversation that will create real change. A conversation that will do whatever is required to stop the low pay of individuals that work at my son’s residential facility.

And just perhaps, this change will not just be for his residential facility, but it will promote change in the mental health field, paying people more than a few dollars above minimum wage.  Instead, paying them respectful salaries, for the hard work and dedication of caring for people with special needs. - -






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    I understand. New York has similar problems. Rents here are over $1000 and wages have not kept up with the cost of living. I’ve been advocating for years. If Direct Care Workers are not paid a living wage that means these care facilities will always be understaffed. High turnover and you know the level of care will decrease. As much as we might dislike politics it is our elected officials who set the wages, benefits and regulations for group homes and training programs. You must make calls, send emails, meet with elected officials, go up to the State Capitol otherwise your family member will lose out. We cannot afford to be apathetic. There is an FB page called BFair2DirectCare. One step would be to join this page and participate in the activities. Get other friends and family to support also.

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